How I went frugal and saved $1,000 in a month in Vancouver

Saving money can be hard sometimes, especially when you’re living in a city that’s notorious for being expensive. We asked a Vancouver local how she managed to save $1,000 just by paying attention to where her money goes. Learn about how she did it:

My name is Sarah, and I’m an office assistant who works out of Downtown Vancouver. Four years ago, I was in heavy credit card debt (I’d pay for everything with it). I was tired of getting mail about late payments and owing some faceless corporation money, and I realized then that it was time to make a change.

The first thing I did was cut up my credit card. I know, it sounds kind of extreme, but in using only my debit card, I was able to track my spending better because I understand that whatever money that’s in my bank account is all that I can spend. I noticed that whenever I had to pay for something and thought to myself, “I can put this on my credit card,” it didn’t feel like I was spending my own money even though I knew a bill would come at the end of the month. This was a good start for my plans to get out of debt and save money.

Another thing I did was no longer eating lunch out every day. Lunch out at restaurants, especially if you work in downtown, can add up quickly. A $10-sandwich may not seem expensive at the moment (especially when I’m hungry), but with tip and tax and maybe a drink, we’re looking at about $15. Five times a week adds up to $75, totaling to $300 in a month. Packing your lunch won’t be as satisfying, of course—Vancouver’s culinary scene is booming—but I can assure you that not being in debt is far more satisfying.

packing lunch

I live in East Vancouver, renting a two-bedroom apartment with my best friend, Maggie. We’ve been there for about three years, and though rent gets increased every year, living with a roommate is still a great deal. I lived right in the downtown core four years ago because it was close to work, but rent was about $1,400 for a studio apartment.

I certainly enjoyed the convenience, but I knew that I was living outside my means. Now, between my roommate and I, we pay $750 each before utilities for a beautiful and spacious apartment that’s a bit farther from work, but I’m saving almost half of what I used to spend. I know that not everyone can afford to move farther away from work, but finding a roommate is one of my biggest savings every month.

Here’s the other thing: though I am farther away from work, I’m also in much better shape now because I try to cycle to work as often as possible. Commuting to work was a big expense when I first moved to East Vancouver, with a monthly pass for public transit costing me $93. Now that I cycle to work almost every day and only take the bus when I’m a little short for time, I spend about $20 per month on public transit. Cycling is free!

cycle to work

I also limit myself to how many times per month I am allowed to go out for dinner with friends. Organizing dinners was usually my default for when I wanted to catch up with an old friend, but Vancouver has so much more to offer than just dinner. Now, I try to plan coffee walks (where we grab a coffee and walk around the Seawall), hikes, or even have them over for dinner instead. With an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and drink averaging about $60 per meal in Vancouver, going for a casual dinner with friends can cost you a lot per month.

Here’s one that I actually enjoy doing now: couponing. Before, I always thought it was just for moms on the TLC channel, but couponing can be seriously addicting, and it’s really not that difficult to do. Instead of buying whatever you’re feeling like eating that day at the grocery store, sift through the store’s flyers and make a list of things you’d like to buy. This requires some meal planning, but seeing the savings at the end of your receipt is really satisfying. If your local grocery store offers a loyalty program, I definitely recommend it. Sometimes they’ll offer really good deals just because you’re signed up for their free program.

By incorporating these practices into my daily life, I’m able to save well over $1,000 per month, just by taking a closer look at where my money goes and assessing how it could be better spent. I really think these practices are very doable, though some take a little longer to get used to than others. I hope my tips and tricks can help you save a bit of money this month!

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